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Society

UK Woman Appeals Cyprus Conviction for Lying About Gang Rape

September 5, 2021

A British woman who was 19 when she said she was gang-raped on Cyprus by a group of young Israeli men will have her appeal over being convicted for lying about it heard by the Supreme Court on Sept. 16. She had told Cypriot police the gang of about 12 men took turns raping her in a hotel room in the resort area of Ayia Napa in July, 2019 and that she was coerced by police into retracting it, leading to her conviction for causing public mischief.

When she later insisted she had been raped her case became a cause celebre for women's groups and activists during a time when sexual harassment was being singled out in the workplace and in society.

If the conviction is not overturned her legal team intends to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, the BBC said in a report. "She wants to get on with life, but for her to get on with life she needs to get this conviction overturned," said Michael Polak, a lawyer helping her in his role as Director of the law firm Justice Abroad.

"This will be on her record. It means any time she applies to join an association or for a job she will be thinking back to this and what's happened to her,” he said, limiting her prospects and continuing to stigmatize her. "So it's very important to her, even though she's not in prison now, she's back in the United Kingdom, it's very important for her to overturn the conviction for that reason,” as she had been released after the verdict. Judge Michalis Papathanasiou gave the teenager a four-month suspended sentence, which meant she could return to the United Kingdom.

"We will be arguing that the conviction is unsafe for a number of reasons and we are hoping the Supreme Court will set aside the conviction," he said. One of these arguments will be that the judge did not consider evidence the woman really was raped, he told the BBC. "For public mischief you need to be making a false allegation and every time we brought forward evidence that the rape took place he would shout at our female Cypriot lawyers and say 'this is not a rape trial, this is not a rape trial'," he said. "He did it about seven times during the trial process, so in effect he shut out any consideration that the rape had taken place, which meant he didn't properly consider all the elements of the offence,” he added about the judge. The woman's mother said getting the conviction overturned would be "the first step for my daughter reclaiming her life".

"Imagine being raped then imprisoned because the authorities say you lied, after refusing to hear evidence to the contrary, then having to relive this each time you apply for a job or training course," she also said. "This is a terrible burden for my daughter, having such a terrible thing happen to her and then carrying a conviction against her name for life." The woman had said she was badgered by police for seven hours before changing her story without explaining why she succumbed to the pressure if her story was true.

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